Lady Olivia, eight years, is ignorant of imminent war looming just beyond her father’s borders.
She climbs the towering trees of the family orchard with the adventurous abandon of youth, whispering secrets to their blossoms and branches, and snacking on ripe fruits. She runs through long green meadows, fingers dancing over the swaying tall grass. She cartwheels through the garden, terrorising the gardener, and pushes creamy yellow daffodils in her hair.
She kisses her father hello when he returns from his tour of the Southern Provinces. He ruffles her curls and hands her a gift.
Her father’s face is worn and despondent when he turns away, but she does not notice. Nor does she see the tightness of her mother’s mouth. She pays no heed to her parents’ hushed exchanges.
The little girl tears open the wrapping and peers into the box. She gathers the impressive haul into her dainty arms and motions for the young butler Tomas to receive them. (As the Lady Olivia commands, so Tomas obeys.)Gently, distractedly, Olivia’s parents lecture that she should always rank duty over heart. The words fall on young, uncaring ears, but Olivia smiles and nods all the same.